Despite the length of the speech – it lasted 70 minutes, making it the longest since he shot to national attention with his perfectly pitched address at the 2004 Democratic convention – it was short on detail. At times it seemed like a laundry list of proposals that could have been issued at any time.
Mr Obama laughed a bit at himself. This was uncharacteristic and disarming. But he insisted that he would press on. “We don’t quit,” he said as he reached his final crescendo. “I don’t quit.”
Despite some attempts at optimism, Mr Obama’s underlying message was the same as his campaign theme – that Washington is broken. At the end of the speech, however, no one was any the wiser as to whether he even knows how to fix it.